OAKLAND -- Parents and the principal of an East Oakland school got some good news Friday: The 60 tablet and seven desktop computers taken in a late-night burglary last month will be covered by insurance and they probably will be replaced by the time school starts Aug. 26.
The computers are valued at around $23,000 and Melrose Leadership Academy Principal Moyra Contreras said she initially was not sure if the school district's insurance policy would cover them since they were purchased with outside grant money.
But Oakland Unified School District spokesman Troy Flint delivered the good news Friday afternoon.
"Unfortunately, this happens somewhat often and we're used to it, so we should be able to replace them before school starts," Flint said.
Contreras said the loss of computers was especially distressing because most of her students do not have computers or Internet access at home.
"Ninety percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunches, so there's a high level of poverty here," Contreras said. "When they don't have access to technology that other students do, their quality of education suffers."
Contreras said middle school students use the tablets for research and presentations.
Contreras said the school has a security alarm system which was activated when thieves entered seven portable classrooms and the main building at about 1 a.m. July 22, but school district police were responding to an alarm at another school and were not able to get to the school in time to catch anyone.
Several computers were left on the playground and on the street when police arrived, she said. Flint said police do not have any suspects.
The thieves cut a hole in the school fence, then used bolt cutters to break padlocks on the portable classrooms, then they broke the door knobs to gain entry, Contreras said. They peeled back a screen on a bathroom window in the main school and broke into eight classrooms there, she said.
It's the second break-in at the school in one year, Contreras said.
Yonah Camacho Diamond, co-president of the school's PTSA, said he hopes something positive can come out of the theft.
"I hope we can use it to grow stronger as a community," Camacho Diamond said. "We were already close, but I think we can use this as an opportunity to grow even closer."
Doug Oakley covers Berkeley and the Oakland school district. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.